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The Cubs Must Not Win (I)

[ 119 ] October 25, 2016 |

When last the Cubs won the World Series, the Hohenzollerns still ruled Germany.

The Hohenzollern are first mentioned in the eleventh century. Holding lands in southern Germany and the Black Forest, the family slowly expanded its territory until it acquired Brandenburg in 1415. The center of Hohenzollern power moved north, and Berlin became the chief city of the realm. The Hohenzollerns took advantage of the decline of the Teutonic Knights to expand into east Prussia. In 1525 Albert I converted to Lutheranism, took the lands of the Teutonic Knights, and assumed the title Duke of Prussia. A later Duke converted to Calvinism, and House Hohenzollern became known for its religious tolerance. Frederick William I, also known as the Great Elector, helped build the army that Prussia would become renowned for in later years. In 1701 Frederick William’s son Frederick declared himself King ofin Prussia, which helped sever the ties between Prussia and the Kingdom of Poland. Frederick II, or Frederick the Great, used the army to good effect against overwhelming odds in the First and Second Silesian Wars, the War of Austrian Succession, and the Seven Years War. Frederick the Great also patronized Voltaire and Kant, and granted Jean Jacques Rousseau refuge from France.

In the 1860s Otto Von Bismarck, Chancellor to King Wilhelm I, engineered wars against Denmark, Austria, and finally France. Victory in the last catalyzed German nationalism, bringing Wilhelm the title Emperor. After the ninety-nine day reign of Frederick III, Wilhelm II assumed the throne. Although Wilhelm II wasn’t the only source of Germany’s militaristic approach to the international system, he certainly didn’t help the situation. In 1890 he fired Bismarck, and through the last decade of the nineteenth and the first of the twentieth he lent heavy support to German plans for colonial and naval expansion. Trauma during birth left Wilhelm II with a withered arm and may have caused some brain damage. Nevertheless, Wilhelm cannot be held solely responsible for World War I; there’s enough blame to spread around liberally.

Germany’s situation began to deteriorate rapidly in November 1918. With revolution in the air and the Reichswehr at the breaking point, pressure grew on Wilhelm to abdicate. Although he realized that holding that Imperial crown might become untenable, he hoped and believed that it would be possible to remain King of Prussia. One can sympathize with this feeling; having lost the war, Wilhelm at least hoped not to undo all of the work that his family had accomplished over the last five centuries. Nevertheless, under the advice of Paul Von Hindenburg, a committed royalist, Wilhelm abdicated both crowns and fled to Holland. Wilhelm II’s most significant redeeming quality was a loathing of Adolf Hitler, although he did send Hitler a congratulatory note after the conquest of France in 1940. Of Nazi policy toward the Jews he may have written “for the first time I am ashamed to be a German,” although the source of that quote remains questionable. Although the Allies had requested the Wilhelm be turned over for prosecution, Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands refused. Wilhelm II died on June 4, 1941, and was given an honor guard of German soldiers, an act which almost resulted in the firing of a general by an angry Adolf Hitler. Although Hitler wanted to bring Wilhelm’s body back to Berlin for a state funeral, the former Emperor had explictly provided that his body not return to Germany prior to the restoration of the monarchy.

The actions of Wilhelm II should not prejudice us against Georg Friedrich, the current head of House Hohenzollern. He seems like a very nice young man. Great great grandson of Wilhelm II, Georg Friedrich does not claim the imperial throne, but does use the title Prince of Prussia. He served two years in the Bundeswehr, and has travelled extensively. An anglophile like his great-great-grandfather, he finished college in the United Kingdom, later studying business economics in Germany. Chances for restoration appear extremely grim, as there is almost no sympathy for the monarchy in the contemporary German political scene. Georg Friedrich is, however, 150th in line to the British throne.



[ 24 ] October 25, 2016 |
Arihant 4.jpg

By Gagan11111 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link



Will INS Arihant and her sisters provide stability in South Asia, or increase the dangers of a crisis? A recent article in the Washington Quarterly suggests the latter. Diana Wueger argues that, contrary to the experience of the Cold War, the development of a sea-based deterrent will probably not contribute to the stability of the South Asian nuclear balance. Instead, it could lead to a dangerous spiral between India and Pakistan, or between India and China.



Presidential Campaigning Involves Politics

[ 326 ] October 22, 2016 |


So the latest appallingly stupid NothingBurger to come out of the Wikileaks dump appears courtesy of Lee Fang:

Shadowproof connects the dots:

The campaign pushed out content with the #ImSoEstablishment hashtag through Clinton, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and a “diverse array of bloggers and progressive people out in the world.” Shonda Rhimes, Ricky Martin, and Julianne Moore, each considered “non-political surrogates,” were enlisted to respond.

More remarkably, the campaign coordinated with bloggers and columnists to create the perception that Sanders’s comments were racist or detrimental to women. As Peterson put it, they were asked to “write about this from a racial justice and reproductive rights perspective, including a few people who joined us on a call to talk about the “Bernie Backlash” that was unfolding even before his remarks last night.”

Peterson named Sady Doyle, Gabe Ortiz, Elianne Ramos, Jamil Smith, and Aminatou Sow, as writers who were urged to publish pieces that would be helpful to the campaign. Jessica Valenti, according to Peterson, already was in the process of writing a column on the matter.

As several of the bloggers mentioned above are party to one or more of the endless, dreary, pointless twitter feuds that emerged around the 2016 Democratic primary campaign, the remnants of the Bernie Brigade went predictably ballistic:

So, a story.

As I have noted a couple of times, earlier this year I briefly served in an informal capacity as a foreign policy advisor to the Sanders campaign.  My role was extraordinarily small, largely because of mutual disinterest, but in the context of the above “news” it’s worth relating one anecdote.

In the process of agreeing to advise the campaign, I was asked about my willingness to be identified as a public advocate, or whether I would prefer an informal role.  I was happy to go public, but it turned out (I was told) that abolishing the Air Force was too spicy of an enchilada for Bernie to publicly associate himself with (revolutions ain’t what they used to be).

Not long after this (in late February), I received the following e-mail from an individual associated with the Sanders campaign (happy to release name if I receive permission, otherwise no):



I accepted the suggestion for the following reasons:

  1. I write two weekly columns, and always welcome new ideas.
  2. Although I often find myself on the more hawkish side of the left blogosphere, I had serious reservations about the role that Clinton played in the decision to intervene in Libya.
  3. I have long believed that the US political conversation needs sophisticated, robust voices on the left; not “liberals who like blowing stuff up,” but rather leftists who are knowledgeable of and engaged with the major debates on US national security. Working with Sanders generally, and writing the article specifically, supported this desire.

The person I worked with forwarded along several talking points to emphasize. I wrote the article, which I submitted to the National Interest (not generally regarded as a pro-Clinton outlet).  They never published; it’s possible that the article simply wasn’t very good, but NatInt was undergoing a bit of editorial turmoil at the time, and it’s possible the piece simply got lost in the shuffle.  I didn’t feel strongly, and so I didn’t push it.  I thought about publishing here at LGM, but had qualms about posting what amounted to an attack on the likely Democratic nominee. The “likely” was key here; if I had believed that Bernie Sanders had any chance at all of winning the nomination, I might well have pursued it further. I have no idea whether anyone else received similar e-mails.

Let me be utterly clear: THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH ANY OF THIS. It violated no meaningful norms or ethical standards, and invoke no specific moral qualms.  My reticence to engage came wholly and purely from concern that something I wrote would become a hit piece against the likely Democratic nominee. The Sanders campaign noted what it believed to be a key vulnerability of Hillary Clinton.  It reached out to writers who also believed that Clinton had made problematic decisions.  It suggested that these writers take advantage of a notable news story on the topic in question. In short, the Sanders campaign attempted to win an election by making an active effort to publicly highlight a difference between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. It took active steps to develop a narrative, and to push that narrative forward in the media.

This is called politics.  I do wish that folks weren’t so committed to pretending that Hillary Clinton invented politics, or that the practice of politics is somehow dirty.

The X-32 Flying Manatee

[ 35 ] October 21, 2016 |
Boeing X-32B Patuxent.jpg

Boeing X-32B. By Carl Lindberg – Own work, CC BY 2.5

People here may not like the F-35 very much but at least we were spared the X-32:

One thing is for certain; the X-32 was a ridiculously ugly aircraft. It looked like nothing so much as the spawn of an A-7 Corsair and a hideously deformed manatee. The F-35 is no prize from an aesthetic point of view, lacking the sleek, dangerous lines of the F-22, but the X-32 made the F-35 look positively sexy by comparison. How much should this matter? Not a bit. How much did it matter? Good question. Fighter pilots don’t like to fly aircraft that look like they could be run over by Florida speed boat.


[ 11 ] October 16, 2016 |
"Overwhelming Majority" CIA Bestiary of Intelligence Writing

“Overwhelming Majority” CIA Bestiary of Intelligence Writing

Some thoughts on buzzwords at the Diplomat:

Buzzwords exist because they have utility and cease to exist when they are no longer of use to anyone. They are a form of the specialized vocabulary found in any profession, although the imprecision of the “national security analyst” community necessarily makes defense buzzwords less precise than they might be. The fuzziness of the community (and the associated buzzwords) stems from the fact that it extends across a wide range of organizations and specializations, from the military to the academy to the think tank family to the halls of Congress.

Nazi Bomb!

[ 78 ] October 15, 2016 |
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1995-042-37, Schwerer Bomber  V1.jpg

Messerschmitt Me 264 By Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1995-042-37 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de


Latest counter-factual at the National Interest:

In the early years of World War II, it looked as if Germany might have the luxury to spend its time developing a new generation of super-weapons. The Nazis haphazardly pursued the idea of building an atomic bomb, with an eye toward eventual conflict with the United States. However, the immediate demands of war, combined with Western Allied sabotage, undercut the program, leaving it at the basic research stage by war’s end.

But what if the Germans had devoted more attention to the program, or had lucked into more substantial breakthroughs?  What could the Nazis have done with an atomic weapon?

Foreign Entanglements: The Diplomats!

[ 1 ] October 14, 2016 |

On the latest episode of Foreign Entanglements, retired Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh speaks with Max Abrahms about Clinton, Trump, and the election:

Never Forget!

[ 41 ] October 14, 2016 |

1050 950 years, and we still don’t know who killed King Harold.

Damn, math is hard.

Houthi What?

[ 25 ] October 13, 2016 |
Flickr - Official U.S. Navy Imagery - A helicopter approaches USS Nitze to land..jpg

By Official Navy Page from United States of America MC3 Alex R. Forster/U.S. Navy – A helicopter approaches USS Nitze to land., Public Domain,

For those not really paying attention, this morning the destroyer USS Nitze hit three coastal radar installations in Houthi-controlled portions of Yemen. The strikes were in response to land-based cruise missile attacks against USS Mason, another USN destroyer operating in the area. The Mason came under attack on Sunday, and again yesterday, from two missile salvos (believed to be C-802s), and defended itself with SM-2 Standard and ESSM Evolved Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles.  At this point it remains unclear whether the counter-measures were effective, or whether the cruise missiles simply crashed into the sea of their own accord.

Word is that the initial Houthi attacks are meant as a response to the big Saudi strike that killed a large number of people at a funeral last week.  The Houthi may have gotten the missiles from Iran, although other suppliers are possible.  The strikes on the coastal radar installations are intended to blind the missile launchers; without radar to identify targets, sending off a cruise missile is a pretty hopeless endeavor.

Escalation?  Sure, but fairly measured at this point.  The US attacks aren’t intended to send a “message,” but rather to cut out a critical part of the recon-strike complex. If the Houthi continue to launch such attacks on US or neutral shipping, or if they undertake other kinds of attacks (the small boat swarm that took out the former HSV-2) then the USN might pursue less limited options.

The broader context is ongoing US support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, which is predicated almost entirely upon the need to not make the Saudis feel sad and lonely after the Iran nuclear deal. I can understand the strategic logic of this support, but there really should be limits to how many people we’ll let the Saudis kill just so that they continue to feel loved.

Tragedy to Farce to Whatever Comes After Farce

[ 112 ] October 12, 2016 |


Russia and the 2016 Campaign

[ 180 ] October 11, 2016 |

Hillary Clinton and Sergei Lavrov with reset button. By U.S. State Department.

A few observations, followed by a few thoughts:

  • Russia is governed by a right-wing, quasi-authoritarian petro-state which has increasingly taken an assertive approach to managing perceived threats, including militarizing disputes with neighbors, aggressively supporting clients, and using intelligence assets to disrupt political and social developments in perceived adversaries.
  • Russia media and intelligence services seem to be actively supporting a right-wing, quasi-authoritarian, human-equivalent-of-a-petro-state in the US Presidential election. Thus far this support has been ineffectual, and perhaps even counter-productive, although it probably has had the marginal effect of delegitimizing the election in the eyes of some Americans.
  • Pointing out either or both of the above does not constitute either “McCarthyism,” or an effort to start “a New Cold War.”

It’s worth ruminating for a bit just how odd of a situation we find ourselves in.  The Democrats are unquestionably to the right of the Republicans on the Russian question in 2016, something which has arguably only happened one other time (1960) since the beginning of the Cold War. This is a dramatic shift from recent elections; the GOP was somewhat to the right of the Democrats on Russia in 2008, and was far to the right of the Democrats in 2012.

What makes it all the more remarkable is that, as of one year ago, the GOP gave every indication that it would try to get even farther to the right of the Democrats on Russia than it was in 2012.  Not without some justification, the Republicans were prepared to claim that events had vindicated Mitt Romney’s appraisal of Russia in 2012, and that the Obama (and by extension, Clinton) efforts to reset relations with Russia had failed utterly. Of the several dozen individuals to compete in the 2016 GOP Presidential primary, all but two (Donald Trump and perhaps Rand Paul) would have pursued an aggressive strategy of linking Clinton to Obama’s Russia policy.  This would undoubtedly have included ads featuring Clinton’s 2009 meeting with Sergei Lavrov playing on a continuous loop in swing states.

To be sure, Russia has some particular reasons to dislike Hillary Clinton. The Russian political establishment is probably correct to believe that Clinton will pursue a more hawkish foreign policy than Obama, although she was likely to pursue a less aggressive Russia policy than any GOP candidates other than Trump or Paul. Reportedly, Putin remains resentful of Clinton’s decision to (accurately) point out fraud in the 2011 Russian legislative elections. And it’s surely worth noting that the United States and Russia have real foreign policy disagreements, including most notably the long-term nature of the governments in Damascus and Kiev, as well as the extent of security guarantees to former Soviet bloc states in Central and Eastern Europe.

Nonetheless, as of mid-2015, it looked very much like the Russia issue would play out in the 2016 election very much in the way it had played out in 2012, only more so.  The Republican candidate would aggressively challenge Clinton on the failure of Obama’s policy of “appeasement,” and would link her directly to Russia’s occupation of Crimea and intervention in Syria. Clinton would respond by a) distancing herself from Obama, and b) claiming that an aggressive response to Russia would be irresponsible, notwithstanding Moscow’s provocations.  On balance, this would work less well for Democrats in 2016 than it did in 2012. Mike Pence essentially played out this script in the VP debate.

And then Trump happened, and suddenly a massive vulnerability of the Democratic candidate became a significant asset.  Just as suddenly, the Russian state suddenly had an ideologically sympathetic candidate to support.  Crazy. To all appearances, this opportunity seems to have just dropped into Russia’s lap; to my mind, there’s little plausible evidence to indicate that Russia played any significant role in inspiring Trump to run, or in helping him prevail in the GOP primary. But given such an opportunity, the Russian intelligence services are running with it. Allies such as Wikileaks (I still think it’s wrong to refer to Assange as a Russian proxy; he has his own reasons, personal and ideological, for disliking Clinton) have actively supported this effort.

As an aside, it’s worth discussing against this backdrop the still-puzzling affinity that some leftish outfits (the Nation, obviously, but others) still have for Russian state propaganda. The reluctance in these quarters to grant that Russia has preferences regarding the 2016 US presidential election, and that it is actively pursuing those preferences, is genuinely odd. Part of this (paging Stephen Cohen) can be ascribed to the long-term habits of the Cold War, and a failure to notice that Russia had ceased to be even a rump revolutionary state, and had become an activist reactionary power.  Some undoubtedly results from the fact that Putin was, indeed, on the correct side of the Iraq War debate, and that Russian media outlets in the United States (RT most notably) actively took an antagonistic stance towards the Bush administration. Some surely stems from residual gratitude for Russia’s role in promoting Julian Assange and harboring Edward Snowden, even as it has become apparent that Assange, at least, is more reactionary crank than progressive force. And related to this, there seems to be an implicit, undercurrent belief in some quarters that any political actor capable of resisting US foreign policy, even one which has become as actively pernicious and anti-progressive as Russia, is worth offering at least measured support. In any case, it sure would be nice if one of the flagship magazines of the American left was capable of noticing what the Russian state has become.

In any case, at this point it looks as if Russia’s effort to disrupt the 2016 US will fail utterly. Unless the polls change dramatically, Trump is going to get crushed.  Clinton will undoubtedly remember Russia’s stance on the election, making it unlikely that we’ll see yet another “reset” effort with Moscow. A significant portion of the US electorate will believe that the election is illegitimate, but that’s hardly new.  The really interesting developments will come in 2020; will the next GOP candidate pursue a traditional anti-Russian stance, or will the reactionary ideological affinity on display in this election have a long-term impact on the foreign policy debate in the US?

Hyper! Sonic!

[ 7 ] October 10, 2016 |

Flash Pack.jpg

The Cipher Brief asked me for some thoughts on hyper-sonic weapons:

In recent years, defense analysts have increasingly turned their attention to the development of hypersonic weapons, a class of systems intended to strike fast, at range, and evade most existing defenses. Generally speaking, a hypersonic weapon is a system in which the kill vehicle (carrying the warhead) travels in excess of Mach 5 in its terminal phase, just prior to striking its target.

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